Does Hemispheric Asymmetry Reduction in Older Adults (HAROLD) in motor cortex reflect compensation?

Knights, Ethan, Morcom, Alexa and Henson, Richard N (2021) Does Hemispheric Asymmetry Reduction in Older Adults (HAROLD) in motor cortex reflect compensation? Journal of Neuroscience. ISSN 0270-6474

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Older adults tend to display greater brain activation in the non-dominant hemisphere during even basic sensorimotor responses. It is debated whether this Hemispheric Asymmetry Reduction in Older Adults (HAROLD) reflects a compensatory mechanism. Across two independent fMRI experiments involving adult-lifespan human samples (N = 586 and N = 81; approximately half female) who performed right hand finger responses, we distinguished between these hypotheses using behavioural and multivariate Bayes (MVB) decoding approaches. Standard univariate analyses replicated a HAROLD pattern in motor cortex, but in- and out-of-scanner behavioural results both demonstrated evidence against a compensatory relationship, in that reaction time measures of task performance in older adults did not relate to ipsilateral motor activity. Likewise, MVB showed that this increased ipsilateral activity in older adults did not carry additional information, and if anything, combining ipsilateral with contralateral activity patterns reduced action decoding in older adults (at least in Experiment 1). These results contradict the hypothesis that HAROLD is compensatory, and instead suggest that the age-related, ipsilateral hyper-activation is non-specific, in line with alternative hypotheses about age-related reductions in neural efficiency/differentiation or inter-hemispheric inhibition.Significance StatementA key goal in the cognitive neuroscience of ageing is to provide a mechanistic explanation of how brain-behaviour relationships change with age. One interpretation of the common finding that task-based hemispheric activity becomes more symmetrical in older adults, is that this shift reflects a compensatory mechanism, with the non-dominant hemisphere needing to "help out" with computations normally performed by the dominant hemisphere. Contrary to this view, our behavioural and brain data indicate that the additional activity in ipsilateral motor cortex in older adults is not reflective of better task performance nor better neural representations of finger actions.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Psychology > Psychology
SWORD Depositor: Mx Elements Account
Depositing User: Mx Elements Account
Date Deposited: 15 Oct 2021 07:08
Last Modified: 28 Mar 2022 01:00

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